May 28th, 2007
Bioethicist Steven Miles, author of Oath Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity, and the War on Terror, writes of a new Department of Defense Office of Inspector General report, which among other things, provides conclusive evidence that psychologists from the military’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) program played a key role in the development of American interrogation techniques in the war on terror:
Steve Miles, MD
Professor of Medicine
The Defense Department has declassified the Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) August 2006 ” Review of DoD-Directed Investigations of Detainee Abuse. Most of this 131 page document reviews previously released general investigations such as the Formica, Jacoby, and Army Surgeon General’s Reports. However it concludes that
“allegations of detainee abuse were not consistently reported, investigated, or managed in an effective, systematic, and timely manner. … Nevertheless, no single entity within any level of command was aware of the scope and breadth of detainee abuse. … Interrogation support in
Iraqlacked unity of command and unity of effort. … In addition, policy for and oversight of interrogation procedures were ineffective. As a result, interrogation techniques and procedures used exceeded the limits established of Army” doctrine (p. ii).
Medical personnel were aware of abuses (p8, 21). It confirms that medical supervision of interrogation began in
The OIG report offers the clearest delineation of the hotly debated involvement of SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape Training) with psychologists, the Behavior Science Consultation Teams and abusive coercive interrogation. It shows that psychologists from BSCT and SERE did collaborate in developing highly coercive and abusive interrogation techniques.
SERE training teaches
“SERE training, sometimes referred to as code of conduct training, prepares select military personnel with survival and evasion techniques in case they are isolated from friendly forces. The schools also teach resistance techniques that are designed to provide
U.S.military members, who may be captured or detained, with the physical and mental tools to survive a hostile interrogation and deny the enemy the information they wish to obtain. SERE training incorporates physical and psychological pressures, which act as counterresistance techniques, to replicate harsh conditions that the Service member might encounter if they re held by forces that do not abide by the Geneva Conventions. (OIG)”
In the process, US soldiers are subject to supervised abuse by other
“U.S. Joint Forces Command is the DoD Executive Agent responsible for providing Service members with SERE training. The Joint Personnel Recovery Agency at [...various bases] … . The Services train an estimated 6,200 members annually at these schools. … SERE schools do not have personnel assigned to be interrogators and do not advocate interrogation measures to be executed by our force. The SERE expertise lies in training personnel how to respond and resist interrogations–not in how to conduct interrogations. Therefore, the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency and SERE mission is defensive in nature, while the operational interrogation mission is sometimes referred to as offensive. … The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) … review recommended that the Federal Bureau of Investigation Behavioral Science Unit, the Army’s Behavioral Science Consultation Team, the Southern Command Psychological Operations Support Element, and the Joint Task Force 170 clinical psychologist develop a plan to exploit detainee vulnerabilities. The Commander, JTF-170 expanded on the CJCS recommendations and decided to also consider SERE training techniques and other external interrogation methodologies as possible DoD interrogation alternatives. Between June and July 2002, but before the CJCS review, the Chief of Staff of the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, working with the Army Special Operations Command’s Psychological Directorate, developed a plan designed to teach interrogators how to exploit high value detainees. (S//NF) On September 16, 2002, the Army Special Operations Command and the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency co-hosted a SERE psychologist conference at
Fort Braggfor JTF-170 interrogation personnel. The Army’s Behavioral Science Consultation Team from Guantanamo. Guantanamo Behavioral Science Consultation Team personnel understood that they were to review documentation and standard operating procedures for SERE training in developing the standard operating procedure for the JTF-170, if the command approved those practices. The Army Special Operations Command was examining the role of interrogation support as a “SERE Psychologist competency area.” …
“On at least two occasions, the JTF-170 requested that Joint Personnel Recovery Agency instructors be sent to Guantanamo to instruct interrogators in SERE counterresistance interrogation techniques. SERE instructors from
Fort Braggresponded to Guantanamorequests for instructors trained in the use of SERE interrogation resistance techniques. Neither of those visits was coordinated with the Joint Forces Command, which is the office of primary responsibility for SERE training, or the Army, which is the office of primary responsibility for interrogation. … The Commander, Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, explained that he understood that the detainees held by TF-20 were determined to be Designated Unlawful Combatants (DUCs), not Enemy Prisoners of War (EPW) protected by the Geneva Convention and that the interrogation techniques were authorized and that the JPRA team members were not to exceed the standards used in SERE training on our own Service members. He also confirmed that the U.S.Joint Forces Command J-3 and the Commanding Officer, TF-20 gave a verbal approval for the SERE team to actively participate in “one or two demonstration” interrogations. SERE team members and TF-20 staff disagreed about whether SERE techniques were in compliance with the GenevaConventions. When it became apparent that friction was developing, the decision was made to pull the team out before more damage was done to the relationship between the two organizations. The SERE team members prepared After Action Reports that detailed the confusion and allegations of abuse that took place during the deployment. These reports were not forwarded to the U.S.Joint Forces Command because it was not a common practice at that time.”
We need an independent Congressional investigation of this mess. Perhaps it could be assigned to the
[Dr. Steven Miles has created the United States Military Medicine in War on Terror Prisons archive of primary documents.]
I echo Dr. Miles’ call for a Congressional investigation. I am, however, not sure the Institute of Medicine is the appropriate group to conduct such an investigation as the investigation will require investigative capacity and subpoena power. I will soon be releasing an article explaining the meaning of this report in greater detail.